By Kurt Schmierer
Since Youtube became the thing, regular people started thinking like directors, producers and screenwriters. Now you can watch hundreds… nay thousands of web series.
Before I go on, what is a web series? Basically a web series is internet based, about 5 minute to max 60 minute, film work that airs online. Sometimes called a webisode. Most are in the 15ish minute range and usually released on a regular basis. These webisodes are set up to be stand alone episodes that build to a finale like television shows. Webisodes are great places for up and coming writers, directors and actors to practice their craft and learn before they go after the bigger gigs. Webisodes are also a great opportunity for seasoned veterans of TV and movies to be creative and have fun making their own type of entertainment without all the bureaucracy and red tape.
In the next few issues we will follow a few creators of these shows and find out the who, what, and why webisodes are becoming so mainstream and enjoy hearing from those who write, direct and act in all types of these shows.
There will be 2 parts to each webisode interview such as follows. We are going to meet Artie O’Daly; writer, producer and actor who acts in two web shows “Successful People” and “Bad Boy” In this issue we interview O’daly, next issue we will have a quick interview with the cast including Mr. O’daly and then we will chat with each of their characters .
Really quick let me list a few shows you may have seen Artie in:
The Big Bang Theory
The odd Couple 2017
Tell us about Artie O’Daly? What led you to acting.
I was a creative kid, so part of it is just natural. I loved to write plays and shoot short movies with our video camera and I was obsessed with sitcoms and scripts. All of it fascinated me. As a young kid, my dad had a good friend – a wonderful man named Tony Askins – who worked as a cinematographer on many television series. If you’ve seen the first seven seasons of Will & Grace, you’ve seen his work. As a kid, he invited the whole family to come visit him while he was working on “The Love Boat” and then again on “Dynasty II: The Colbys”, and I think there was something about seeing actors at work at that young age that clicked in with the naturally creative side of me. I saw it was something people did with their lives.
Tell us about Artie O’Daly the screenwriter?
Hmm… Accidental? Untrained? Totally making it up as he goes along? I’m kidding, but also not. I never strived to be a writer, even though, looking back, I wrote far more than I ever acted. And “untrained” might only be true in the traditional sense. As I mentioned, I was obsessed with sitcoms and would videotape them and rewatch them so many times as to know every beat, joke delivery, pause, set up, wordplay, all of it. This is most specifically to the show “The Golden Girls”. I think there’s something about studying the finished product that trained my brain to understand the fundamentals of comedy. As an adult, I write shorts just so I act in them!
Tell us about Artie 0’Daly the Director?
Hmmm… Major diva? Totally controlling? Like David O. Russell, but gay? This time I am fully kidding, although you can’t help but be controlling when you’re the director. It’s kind of the job. I literally just had a day of shooting “Bad Boy” yesterday and told the cast, “You guys know I don’t know what I’m doing, right?” I’m not really interested in directing, but since I write the scripts, it makes sense that I would be the one to steer the filming of it.
You are all three of these things, but which would you say drives you the most?
Acting. Are you kidding me? It’s the most fun! It’s literally playtime. Writing is the hardest. It’s the most satisfying when it’s done, but it’s work. Directing might be more enjoyable if I wasn’t in the show because I could see more how it’s coming together while it’s being filmed, but yeah, acting is the thing. Super funsies.
We want to talk to you about your web series “Successful People” and “Bad Boy.” Where did the Idea for Successful People come from?
Successful People came about with my friend, Theresa Ryan, who also plays “Whitney” in Bad Boy. We had come across a couple of younger, but much more successful people at a play one night who couldn’t help but mention that they owned a gastropub and just got back from Paris within the first two minutes of meeting them. They were actually lovely people, but as soon as they walked away, we turned to each other and were like, “Ugh. What assholes.” In jest, but also in seriousness. We knew we wanted to do a project called “Successful People Are Assholes” after that. We talked about it for five years until we finally settled on doing a web series and took action.
Where did the Idea for “Bad Boy” come from?
The guy who played “Mack” in the first episodes of Bad Boy was a new actor in town and wanted footage for his demo reel. He wanted to do something comedic where he played a “bad boy” type. So it was kind of like a writing job for hire, in that I knew those were my parameters and I had to come up with something. The first short was all the show was going to be. When it became successful, I did a second short. When that also was successful, then I started thinking long-term and decided to flesh out a full story and world.
Because you wrote, directed and played a lead role in each one, what did you like the best?
I actually didn’t direct Successful People. The first season was directed by Janina Maria and the second season was directed by the team of Craig Tovey and Ryan Lagod and because I didn’t have to direct and could just play, I’d say I liked doing that show better!
Each character is different. What do you like about each of your characters in “Successful People” and “Bad Boy?”
It’s an unstated fact that some of the fans know, but the characters I play in each of these shows are supposed to be twin brothers. I’m Chet Kensington in Successful People and Scott Kensington in Bad Boy. I haven’t gotten around to explicitly talking about it in Bad Boy. I’ve tried to work it in, but it’s never felt organic. So it was basically just a thing that a fan might notice, that both characters had the same last name. To answer your question, they both have aspects of me, of course. Chet is, frankly, dumber. Haha Or perhaps just more innocent. He doesn’t make plans, he does whatever anyone tells him to. He’s also trying hard to achieve success and stay positive. Scott is much more mature, stable, grounded, successful, but in that, he’s even more isolated in his life and views his work as his sole purpose. I like Chet’s go-with-the-flow attitude, but I love Scott’s personal stability even when his life is crazy.
Creating a web show is very intensive with what goes on behind the scenes and in front of the camera, what to you is the most rewarding aspect of creating these shows?
I know it’s probably better to say the reward is just having completed it, which certainly is a reward in and of itself, but the most rewarding thing to me is other people enjoying it. Which I guess is another way of saying, “Other people’s opinions are what matter most.” I’m thinking of having that crocheted on a pillow.
The comedy writing in both are very campy meaning simple and straightforward with a smile, chuckle or laugh guaranteed, but at the same time they are very imaginative keeping one off guard and thinking they know what will happen next but it is totally different. How do you come up with humor and jokes?
I’m just naturally brilliant. Just kidding. It’s actually hard work. Remember how I mentioned writing is hard? Yup, this is why. I’ll be writing and think, “Okay, the character needs to say something funny here” and then I’ll write something so totally unfunny and realize I’m a fraud. I’ll usually sit and say various things out loud to see what would make me laugh if I heard it. And if nothing comes within five minutes, I’ll literally write into the script “SOMETHING FUNNY HERE” and come back to it another time.
When you were casting both web series did you have a cast member in mind or did you do an open call? If you had actors in mind, tell us if you wrote the part for that person. If you did an open cast call, how did you choose the perfect people?
I’ve never had a casting call, although I would love to find a way to meet more actors. Scratch that: I would love to find a way to meet more GOOD actors. You gotta be specific with your wishes or you never know what you’re gonna get. As I wrote the show, I’d typically have the actor in mind as I wrote so I could incorporate their voice or style into the dialogue. When I was looking for another “bad boy”-type actor to play Jim, I’d remembered Drew Canan from a play I worked on, but had never seen him act. So he actually did a self-tape for me and we worked from there. That’s happened two or three times, but it’s always been people I already know or referred to me by someone I trust.
I love Alina Bock and Drew Canan. I cannot see Bad Boy without them. Alina is such a naturally gifted comedian. She can go from grounded to absurd within the same line. When she did her first episode, she was just starting to post more character videos onto her social media, and that gave me the idea for her to keep coming back to the show in various disguises. Drew, on the other hand, I usually have to bring down. His style leans towards the broader, more physical range of comedy, so when you see those elements in the series, that’s him naturally.
Web series are many different lengths, yours are all about 15 plus or minus minutes. What made you choose that duration length? Tell us the science of webserise in your mind?
Well, look, I certainly don’t have the science figured out. Every time I release a video, I’m sure no one’s going to watch for whatever reason. The thumbnail’s wrong, the length is too long, the title is terrible, etc etc. The first couple of shorts were only five minutes and, to be honest, that’s hell for me. I call myself an “overwriter” because I’ll write twenty pages when you ask for ten. But we were always limited by the number of hours and pages we could feasibly shoot in a day. When Jamie Hobert came on board as the director of photography in episode nine, we started developing our own creative balance and it opened the doors to longer episodes. It exhausts everyone and is certainly way more than anyone should be shooting in a day and deep down I think they all hate me for it, but oh well. I overwrite the episodes and now we get to make them!
How many more episodes do you think you might have for Bad Boy?
We just wrapped the season finale yesterday, which takes the series to episode 27. I laugh when I call it the season finale because this “season” has lasted four years. I know the show is popular and people want more, so I imagine I’ll start making a season two soon, but right now, I just needed a button on this story arc and a momentary rest. And by “momentary rest”, I mean, “I just wanna hang out at the movies every day for a couple weeks”.
As a creator of funny web series, what would you tell people who want to start their own?
I had to stop for a moment because I don’t want to sound like a dick, which I often do, and there are so many elements to making any series, web series included. If you’ve got a team around you to help, awesome. If you’ve done some writing or acting or editing or producing before, even awesomer – you’ll be ahead of the game. If you’ve just got an idea and think it’ll be fun, then I’d be cautious and point out that it’s a lot of work. I do believe in supporting creative people because we often have enough voices in our heads telling us that what we do is worthless. I’m my own hype man now. I’ve got these amazing friends who are wanting to be in the shorts and I’ve got Jamie who has become amazingly valuable with the filming and editing and feedback process, but when it comes down to it, I’m alone in my apartment, writing, planning, trying to make my own dreams come true. I do it because there’s nothing else I want to do and because I know it’s something I can do. It’s not a hobby; it’s a job to me. What I’m getting at is I would encourage people to follow through if they’re going to take it seriously, because there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to see it and it’s a mountain of work. Having said that, and if whoever is reading this is like, “Yeah, I wanna do it even though I’ve never done it before,” then I’d say start small. Do a single four minute short. Consider it a learning experience and then see if you wanna keep going after that.
When you are done with “Bad Boy” are you going to edit it together to make one continuous movie?
Not exactly because it isn’t designed to be a movie. Sometimes only hours have gone by between episodes, but sometimes it’s been weeks. I do plan to upload them all as a single file on YouTube so people can stream them in order as a binge viewing experience.
Would you like to see either “Successful People” or “Bad Boy” as a full feature show one day?
If you mean as a full thirty minute sitcom on proper television, abso-frickin-lutely. That has been the goal since those days of visiting “The Love Boat” and videotaping “The Golden Girls”. That is where I’m hoping this all leads.
I have followed Artie-Scott (Daddy Scott) for quite a while when I ran across Episode #2 of Bad Boy, “Bad Boy Comes Out” and I was hooked and watched all that had been created. I still like getting the notices for the next episode, yes it is still being made and the plot thickens and the jokes keep me smiling or laughing.